Aug. 24, 2009
Liz Babiarz, 404-413-1356
When she entered college, Nydia Simon thought she wanted to be an attorney, arguing case law in the courtroom. But after a year in the Teach For America-Atlanta program, Simon discovered her place is in the classroom, shaping young minds.
Thanks to a new partnership between Georgia State University and Teach for America-Atlanta, Simon will be able to receive the teacher training she needs to be successful in her career as an educator.
“Getting my certification and master’s degree at Georgia State will push me into the realm of being a master teacher,” said Simon, who is a second grade teacher at Margaret Fain Elementary School in Atlanta. “It will reinforce what I’ve been doing in the classroom and provide me with new ideas and new strategies.”
Starting this fall, GSU’s College of Education will begin training about 170 Teach For America-Atlanta corps members like Simon through approved teacher programs leading to certification or a master’s degree. Members will enroll in the college’s elementary, secondary and special education programs.
“We want to make sure we’re drawing on the best Teach For America does and our own strengths,” said Joyce Many, associate dean for academic programs in the College of Education. “These are highly qualified people who want to be in schools and we want to keep them there. They need the best preparation possible and we want to provide them with the knowledge and expertise they need for success.”
Because both care about closing the achievement gap and improving learning gains in high needs schools, the collaboration between Georgia State’ s College of Education and Teach For America – Atlanta was a natural fit.
Teach For America is a national corps of recent college graduates or older adults looking for a career change, who commit to teach for at least two years in urban and rural public schools. Although Teach For America members are highly accomplished and come from top universities, they typically have not studied education or have teaching experience.
Once accepted by Teach For America, corps members are required to pass the Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Educators exam and then are hired on a provisional certificate by the school district.
Whether the corps members decide to stay in the classroom after their two years of service or go into another area of education, Georgia State will ensure they receive the education they need. Members will teach during the day in Atlanta Public Schools and attend classes at Georgia State at night.
“In order for the achievement gap to close, we need to have alumni working in different educational sectors– staying in the classroom and teaching, pursuing school leadership positions, working for the Department of Education or serving on a school board,” said Samantha Cohen, senior managing director of programs for Teach For America-Atlanta. “We really want to bolster our core members’ success as educators and their connections to long term pathways, and this collaboration with Georgia State allows us to do so.”
GSU College of Education leaders worked hard to craft a program specifically designed for Teach For America- Atlanta members who specialize in early childhood education. The college is also counting the training and professional development that corps members receive from the Teach For America program as credit toward their teaching certificate or master’s degree.
Corps members such as Taylor Sundius, 8th grade history teacher at the Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy, a single-gender school at APS, are eager to take advantage of this opportunity at GSU.
“It’s exciting to be back in the classroom as a student,” said Sundius, who is working toward her teaching certificate and Master of Arts in Teaching. “The past year I was a teacher but now that I’m a student, it’s great. I love learning and I feel like I will grow a lot.”
Since 2002, Teach For America-Atlanta has been in Atlanta Public Schools and currently has 210 members teaching. For more information, visit www.teachforamerica.org .
Georgia State’s College of Education has more than 3,000 students enrolled in 54 degree programs, offered within six academic departments. For more information on the college, visit http://education.gsu.edu/main/.
Atlanta Public Schools, one of the top-performing urban school systems in America, is committed to ensuring that all students graduate from its schools ready for success in college and life, and prepared to build a stronger Atlanta. APS’ innovative curriculums and nationally recognized best practices and excellent teachers are making a difference in the lives of its 48,000 K-12 students. For more information, visit www.atlantapublicschools.us.